What if you had all the classic elements of Americana, historic small towns, western lore and wine country packaged into one huge weekend? If the first word that comes to mind is “Awesome!” then we’ve got something special for you. You may have heard oblique references to the springtime spectacle known to locals as “The Frog Jump,” or simply ”Fair,” but what we’re talking about is none other than California’s oldest running county fair, the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. Definitely a mouthful, hence the local shorthand.
Historic photos of Frog Jump courtesy the Calaveras County Fair
Started in 1893, the fair eventually took its name from the short story that helped make Mark Twain, and the town of Angels Camp famous – The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Today it is an eclectic mixture of entertainment and livestock, corn dogs and carnival rides, fine wines and art exhibits, rodeo and demolition derby. And yes, a high stakes frog jumping competition that is the centerpiece of the four day event May 15-18 at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds. You could just buy a ticket and walk in with no plan, because everything is interesting, but there’s so much happening each day that it helps to have a schedule, which you can download here, and below we give you our recommendations for this year’s Frog Jump essentials:
First tip – Water, and lots of it. Sunscreen and hats too. Dehydration issues are a major pastime at the fair’s medical station and you wouldn’t believe some of the championship sunburns we’ve spotted walking around the place.
Another good idea – pack a cooler (minus the glass and alcohol) and a blanket and head for the shady hillside next to the main stage to snag a spot on the grass. Even if you don’t anticipate staying for evening shows at the arena (for which you’ll be glad you have a seat), the grassy slope is a nice central place to take a break, collect your people and have lunch. You’ll be close to the beer, corn dogs and fried dough too, so that’s a bonus.
Calaveras County Fair Carnival Rides photo by The Calaveras Enterprise
In the large buildings you’ll find an assortment of arts, crafts, baked goods as well as the newly opened Barrel of Monkeez, a fantastic indoor spot for the kids with party bounce houses, laser tag, hamster bowling, mini-golf, games, and more.
Jump a frog! Sign up to compete in the frog jumping contest with special bullfrogs provided by the Fair. Booth opens each morning at the main stage and competitions continue through Sunday until the finals. The top 50 jumpers will compete Sunday for prize money.
Don’t miss your chance for a tour of the Froggington Frog Spa, where the bullfrog guests are fed, pampered, watered and entertained with classical music (no kidding), underneath the main stage. Spa opens daily for tours.
2014 Calaveras Saddle Queen Contestants, photo by The Calaveras Enterprise
Thursday May 15
Opening day, also known as “Kids Day,” and everyone under 12 gets free admission. Take your youngsters down to the livestock pavilion for pony rides and the petting zoo, and at noon they’ll get their chance to jump one of the Fair’s bullfrogs at the Fun Jump. $5 fee to enter the contest.
Talented Ladies – Check out the Saddle Queen Competition in the arena at 2pm, and later the evening’s main event is the Miss Calaveras Scholarship Pageant, on the main stage at 8pm.
2013 Calaveras County Fair photo by The Calaveras Enterprise
Friday May 16
Livestock Shows – If you’re in the market for cows, goats or rabbits, you’ll want to be here early for the livestock show.
Cowboy Poetry – new this year! Come hear stories of the real, working West at the Ranch House, 4pm.
Friday Night entertainment – Calaveras Idol goes off at 6:30pm, followed by Johnny Cash tribute artist James Gardner on the main stage at 7pm and Calaveras’ own Grover Anderson at 9pm at the Ranch House.
Photo by California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association
Saturday May 17
This is your Wild West day! Starting out at 8am with Western Horse events – including cattle branding, penning and a cowboy roundup. The Calaveras Cattlemen host a barbecue at 11am, so load up on some protein for the next item…
Arm Wrestling at 12pm on the Lawn Stage. Anyone can enter… go try your luck.
Rodeo! The California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association will buck it up at the arena starting at 7:30pm. Get a good spot on the grass for this one, and hang on to your hat.
Saturday night’s music includes Journey tribute band, Journey Unauthorized, on the Lawn Stage at 8pm and local favorite, Plan B, at the Ranch House at 9pm.
Last year’s Frog Jump Winner, photo by The Calaveras Enterprise
Sunday May 18
The day of the big finals – The International Frog Jump Day!
Ever been to a livestock auction? This one is for real – a fast talking guy with a big hat and Calaveras County students who have worked hard all year raising their livestock get to put their animals up for auction and continue one of the cornerstone traditions of the Fair. Starts at 9am at the Tower Pavilion in the livestock area – bring your checkbook and support local agriculture. Going once…
Frog Jump Finals – it goes down at 3pm on the main stage, the culmination of the weekend’s top 50 competitors will hop it out for the big money. That’s $900 for the biggest consecutive 3 leaps at Fair, or $5,000 if you beat the world’s record (last set in 1986)!
Destruction Derby – it’s always a nice way to end a big weekend. Kick back on the grass with a cold beverage, some close friends and watch cars turn into piles of twisted, smoking metal. Think loud engines, tires spitting mud and lots of fun crashes. It’s entertainment for the whole herd.